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Going for 100.

Dear Dr. SerVaas,

Thanks for your kindness in regard to the many questions sent to, and answered by, you. I'm eager to know, is there any test for predicting brain aneurysms? I'm currently 83, loving life, and going for 100.

Jeanne Winemiller

Ashland, Ohio


Neurology expert Dr. Jeffrey Thomas at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco tells us that there is not yet a test to predict brain aneurysms. However, there are now diagnostic screening tests such as cerebral angiography, CT angiography, and MR angiography to help detect the problem and guide treatment decisions.

Not all aneurysms rupture. But when they do, immediate medical help may save lives and prevent devastating brain damage. Amanda Perry, daughter of a Post editor, could have died one night six years ago. The 24-year-old developed an excruciating headache one afternoon that progressively worsened. She called her father, detailing what to her was a very unusual episode. Because it was late in the evening, he advised her to go to the emergency room to be sure that something serious was not occurring. After the ER team performed a scan and discovered a brain aneurysm, she was immediately rushed into surgery with a poor prognosis for survival. Amanda beat the odds. An expert neurosurgeon located and fixed the weakened vessel wall. Today, she is living a full life and continues to follow up with her neurosurgeon every couple of years.


Dr. Thomas, who is CPMC's cerebrovascular, neurointerventional, and general neurosurgery medical director, provides the following information:

"Since there is a genetic connection, screening for brain aneurysms is recommended for close family members if more than one aneurysm exists in a sibling group (immediate 'blood family'), or if one family member has multiple aneurysms.

Know the Symptoms

"One in 15 people in the United States develop a weakening of the walls of a cerebral blood vessel. The wall of an aneurysm is missing a layer found in a normal artery or vessel. Eventually, the weak area may bulge out with every beat of the patient's heart and rupture. Each year, about 30,000 Americans experience a ruptured aneurysm, which is very serious.

"The great majority of patients are unaware of their cerebral aneurysm until it ruptures. When this occurs, it causes bleeding into and around the brain and may lead to immediate death, brain damage, and secondary stroke.

"Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm require immediate medical help and include severe headache, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, seizures, or loss of consciousness. The exact cause of aneurysms is unknown. Contributing factors may include hypertension (high blood pressure), tobacco use, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, congenital (genetic) predisposition, injury or trauma to blood vessels, and complication from some types of blood infections. Less than 11 percent of aneurysms are traceable in families."

For more on brain aneurysms, visit the public website of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons at
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Title Annotation:MEDICAL MAILBOX; brain aneurysm
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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